Previous SPI events were big -- but not this big. Solar is no longer a boutique industry.
The mood was upbeat and the outlook positive with some visibility into the next few quarters of strong growth and continued sold-out factories for the next quarter or three. Forecasts are a bit murkier further out than that, with massive capacity coming on-line, continuing uncertainty over the German feed-in tariff, and the usual lack of knowledge about what the U.S. Congress might do, if anything. Module prices are expected to continue to fall over the next quarters, with approximately 15 gigawatts shipped in 2010 and the prospect of 20 gigawatts shipped in 2011.
Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, spoke about his visionary business practices and the creation of cultural shifts at Tuesday’s General Session at SPI. Biz Stone was a last-minute replacement for Peter Darbee, CEO and president of Pacific Gas and Electric. (Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar will speak on Wednesday on the Obama Administration’s efforts to make a rapid move to large-scale production of renewable energy on public lands.)
Inverters, microinverters and DC optimizers were everywhere. And if you don't know the term 'AC module' -- well, you do now. Microinverter firms had the photovoltaic panels of leading suppliers integrated with their microinverters in their booths and panel manufacturers showed off their own AC modules. (We went into detail on that topic in this Microinverter Bubble article.)
Fred Morse started the day off with a CSP pep talk at a SEIA/Utility networking event. Expect to see 4 gigawatts of CSP coming on-line in the next three years -- and lots of job creation.
The Chinese solar module makers keep on coming. Watch out for aggressive Japanese panel manufacturers, eager to regain their market dominance. Big Korean companies like Samsung and Hyundai recently announced their solar intentions. Uni-Solar showed off some interesting roof tile products, as did Lumeta.
Panel racking, tracking and wiring systems are suddenly interesting. Mike Miskovsky, the new president of freshly funded Zep Solar, showed off his racking wares. Racking accounts for about $0.18 to $0.25 per watt of installed solar cost. Other firms in the racking business include Prosolar and Uni-Rac.
Lastly, the cleantech PR firm Tigercomm released polling data yesterday that shows only 8 percent of Americans want to continue the roughly $10 billion per year given to fossil fuel industries by the federal government, versus 73 percent who want half or all of these subsidies invested in policies that support solar and other renewable energy technologies. They used the data to make a case for solar fighting back against attacks by fossil fuel interests. "Solar companies have a lot to gain by a stepped-up, collective defense of their brand,” said Tigercomm President Mike Casey.